Nutrient timing is a hot topic, especially for athletes and anyone looking for that extra edge in the gym or in body transformation. Part of this stems from science showing that the timing of carbohydrate consumption does influence important aspects, such as glycogen replenishment (and in limited cases, muscle protein synthesis). The other side is practical: You want the most bang for your buck when it comes to the nutritional products and supplements you purchase.
Increasing creatine levels in skeletal muscle to 687% of baseline (0.5mM creatine, thought to be equivalent to 5g creatine) doesn’t seem to per se increase glucose uptake, but increases glucose oxidation (140% of baseline) which is due to a two-fold increase in the activity of α1 and α2 subunits of AMPK, a potency comparable to 1mM of the reference drug AICAR. Glucose uptake associated with AMPK has indeed been noted in diabetic people who are undergoing physical exercise and in contracting skeletal muscle cells, but according to rat and in vitro studies of cells not being contracted, this is not a per se effect of non-exercising tissue but an augmentation of exercise-induced glucose uptake.
When creatine is absorbed it pulls water in with it, causing cells to swell. This “cell volumization” is known to promote a cellular anabolic state associated with less protein breakdown and increased DNA synthesis. An increase in cellular viability assessed via phase angle (measuring body cell mass) has been noted in humans during supplementation of creatine.
Ghost Size takes the cake for muscle growth. The key to this formula is epicatechin, an antioxidant found in chocolate and certain plants that is linked to a wide array of benefits. These include increased nitric oxide produciton, better oxygenation to the brain, and muscle growth: epicatechin appears to inhibit myostatin, which suppresses muscle growth, and the dosage found in Ghost Size is in line with studies that examined this effect.
When looking specifically at human studies, there has been a failure of creatine supplementation to induce or exacerbate kidney damage in people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Subjects do not experience kidney damage for up to or over a year’s worth of supplementation in the 5-10g range. Postmenopausal women, people with type II diabetes, people on hemodialysis, otherwise healthy elderly, young people, and athletes do not experience kidney damage either. Moreover, numerous scientific reviews on both the long- and short-term safety of supplemental creatine have consistently found no adverse effects on kidney function in a wide range of doses. However, while doses >10 g/day have been found not to impair kidney function, there are fewer long-term trials using such high chronic daily intakes.
In regard to liver fat buildup (steatosis), which is normally associated with reduced availability of S-adenosyl methionine and a suppression in expression of genes involved in fatty acid oxidation (PPARα and CPT1), creatine supplementation at 1% of the rat diet alongside a diet that induces fatty liver is able to fully prevent (and nonsignificantly reduce relative to the control given standard diets) the aforementioned changes and the state of steatosis, as well as changes in serum biomarkers (glucose and insulin) that accompany steatosis.
The harder an exercise is – both in terms of technicality and physical/mental demand – the more rest there should usually be. So exercises like squats and deadlifts should have more rest between sets than exercises like leg extensions and leg curls. And exercises like various bench presses, shoulder presses, rows and pull-ups should have more rest between sets than bicep curls, tricep extensions, chest flies and lateral raises.
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HMB supplementation is claimed to build muscle size and strength and promote fat loss in conjunction with a strength program. Studies of HMB have shown some benefit to strength athletes in building muscle bulk but the benefits are relatively small and the cost of HMB is high. The effective dose seems to be 3 grams/day divided into 1 gram three times a day. Probably not worth taking. Beta-alanine is the new guy on the block and has not been evaluated sufficiently in my view. It may provide some advantage in high-intensity sports like weight training but it’s much too early to know that it does. Some early studies are flawed. Save your money or try creatine instead.
I’m going to cover this in detail in a bit, but for right now, just know this: it’s VERY possible (and common) to gain weight fast in the hopes of gaining muscle fast. The problem, however, is that the majority of the “weight” a person in this scenario will end up gaining will be body fat rather than muscle mass. This is something that needs to be avoided at all costs, and I’ll show you how a little later.
These effects were noted before in a preliminary study of depressed adolescents (with no placebo group) showing a 55% reduction in depressive symptoms at 4g daily when brain phosphocreatine levels increased. Other prelimnary human studies suggest creatine might lessen unipolar depression and one study on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) noted improved mood as assessed by the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale.
One study on 27 otherwise healthy men supplementing creatine (0.3g/kg loading for a week, 0.05g/kg thereafter for 8 weeks) with a thrice weekly exercise regiment noted that alongside greater increase in lean mass and power relative to placebo at 4 and 8 weeks, myostatin in serum decreased to a greater extent with creatine (around 17% at 8 weeks, derived from graph) than it did with placebo (approximately 7%). Increases in GASP-1, a serum protein that inhibits the actions of myostatin by directly binding to it, were not different between groups.
According to the two meta-analyses on the topic, creatine significantly increases power when supplemented in both sexes over a period of time up to 8 weeks, during which improvement over placebo is maintained, rather than being enhanced further. The rate at which power is derived from a resistance training regimen appears to be up to 78.5% greater with creatine relative to placebo, and in active trained men who are naive to creatine, this can be quantified at about 7kg for the bench press and 10kg for the squat over 8 weeks.
A: Start with the calculations above but don’t be afraid to adjust up or down. Your metabolism and physiology will adapt to more food by trying to maintain homeostasis and regulate your bodyweight. Some may have to increase more than others but the number on the scale doesn’t lie. If it’s not going up, then you probably need to increase your calories.
Our bodies store creatine in our muscles so that we have quick access to it for fast, high-intensity movements, like sprinting or powerlifting, explains Autumn Bates, a certified clinical nutritionist and sports nutritionist in private practice in Manhattan Beach, California. “It's a nonessential amino acid, meaning your body creates it and you don't need to primarily get it from food.”
A: At the end of the day, the most important variable regarding weight gain or loss is calorie consumption. However, meal frequency and timing around activity can both influence workout intensity and duration thus potentially allowing for further improvements in body composition. Remember, muscle growth isn’t a pulsatile process, it doesn’t just acutely spike and then return to baseline so if there aren’t circulating amino acids within the blood stream then they’ll have to be broken down from muscle as this is the highest form of concentrated amino acids within the body. That being said, it would probably be a good idea to consume anywhere from 3-6 meals spread throughout the day depending upon your schedule and preference. Ideally, we want to stimulate anabolism through food every 3-5 hours.
To meet the demands of a high-intensity exercise, such as a sprint, muscles derive their energy from a series of reactions involving adenosine triphosphate (ATP), phosphocreatine (PCr), adenosine diphosphate (ADP), and creatine. ATP, the amount of which is relatively constant, provides energy when it releases a phosphate molecule and becomes ADP. ATP is regenerated when PCr donates a phosphate molecule that combines with ADP. Stored PCr can fuel the first 4-5 seconds of a sprint, but another fuel source must provide the energy to sustain the activity. Creatine supplements increase the storage of PCr, thus making more ATP available to fuel the working muscles and enable them to work harder before becoming fatigued .
Synthesis primarily takes place in the kidney and liver, with creatine then being transported to the muscles via the blood. The majority of the human body's total creatine and phosphocreatine stores is located in skeletal muscle, while the remainder is distributed in the blood, brain, and other tissues. Typically, creatine is produced endogenously at an estimated rate of about 8.3 mmol or 1 gram per day in young adults. Creatine is also obtained through the diet at a rate of about 1 gram per day from an omnivorous diet. Some small studies suggest that total muscle creatine is significantly lower in vegetarians than non-vegetarians, as expected since foods of animal origin are the primary source of creatine. However, subjects happened to show the same levels after using supplements.